Recap of the Second Meeting of the German Windows-HPC User Group

The Second Meeting of the German Windows-UPC User Group took place on March 30th and 31st in Dresden with about 80 participants. The ZIH of TU Dresden was the kind host of this event, which included both a series of talks and several booth places for various vendors. Having the event begin on Monday afternoon allowed for comfortable travel and after the first part was over the social event took place in the Luisenhof am Elbhang restaurant, with a great view over the Elbtal. The second part of the presentation program ended on Tuesday afternoon. According to the feedback gathered so far, this format is very well accepted and will also be used for the next meeting on March 08th and 09th at Schloss Birlinghoven to be hosted by the Fraunhofer Institute SCAI.

Personally, I think this event was successful. We had a good mix of technical talks as well as presentations of how and where Windows-HPC is used today. Some of these users have presented at last year’s event already – they made progress, but most were new. The versions of the HPC ISV-Codes that will be released this year will be well-integrated into HPC Server 2008 (for some products it will be the second version supporting Windows-HPC), but it seems most codes still have quite some potential for out-of-the-box performance improvements. The service providers – such as cluster integrators – that were presenting and / or had booths at the event have made their first experiences (good and bad, of course) with HPC on Windows. Many thanks to the sponsors for supporting this event, in alphabetical ordering: GNS Systems, Intel, Microsoft, Megware, Myricom, Sun and Transtec! The presentation program consisted of several sessions of which I will provide a brief summary in the rest of this post.

The event was opened by a brief welcome talk of Dieter an Mey (RWTH Aachen) and Wolfgang Dreyer (Microsoft) outlining the agenda of the next 1.5 days. The first main presentation was given by Matej Ciesko (Microsoft) and titled Highly-productive Computing with Windows-HPC (no slides). With respect to cc-NUMA awareness and thread scheduling, he explained the new features of the upcoming Windows Server 2008 R2, which will also be the foundation of the next HPC Server (v3). He also gave a brief overview of the activities Microsoft is undertaking to push parallel programming into mainstream and which tools will be made available with Visual Studio 2010.

The second session was titled HPC Infrastructure and the first talk was on the evaluation of integrating Windows-HPC into existing computing environments (slides (de)), given by Harry Schlagenhauf (Science+Computing). It was followed by Jürgen Gretzschel (MegWare) with an overview of MegWare’s activities and developments (slides (de)) in and for the HPC market. Markus Fischer (Myricom) presented on Myricom’s low-latency support of the Network Direct interface on both Myrinet and 10 Gb Ethernet networks (slides (en)). This session as well as the first day was closed by Wolfgang Nagel (TU Dresden), who talked about the HPC and tool development projects at the ZIH of TU Dresden as well as the goals and activities of the Gauß alliance in Germany (no slides).

The first session of the second day was captioned Performance Analysis and the first talk was given by Xavier Pillons (Microsoft) on exactly this topic (slides (en)). He presented and demoed on various build-in tools of Windows to measure the performance of the whole system and single applications as well, putting a focus on the xperf tool of the Windows Performance Toolkit. He also talked about his best practices of troubleshooting system performance issues and about his experience of running LINPACK benchmarks for Top500 submissions on Windows. He was followed by Holger Brunst (TU Dresden) who presented the Vampir GUI on Windows (slides (de)) and how to collect MPI traces. The last talk of this session was given by Christian Terboven (RWTH Aachen); he discussed the HPC tools portfolio for debugging, performance tuning and Shared-Memory parallelization on Windows (slides (en)).

The next session was on Running Windows-HPC Clusters and also included the project presentations of the Microsoft academic program of last year. Michael Wirtz (RWTH Aachen) presented on how the cluster at RWTH Aachen University has been designed and is managed today (slides (de)) and what the current challenges look like. Johannes Habich (University of Erlangen) talked about some of their projects on the Windows-HPC platform and about how they are doing the resource accounting for their HPC customers (slides (de)). Thomas Blümel (TU Dresden) reported on the problems of getting their cluster, sponsored by Microsoft and Dell, up and running and what they would like to see in order to make the setup process more straight-forward (slides (de)).

The 2008 Microsoft academic program was a student competition about bringing HPC codes to the Windows platform. Christopher Schleiden (RWTH Aachen) presented how a C++ 3D Navier-Stokes solver making use of libraries such as ParMETIS and DDD has been ported (slides (de)) and how to get good performance. Roman Parys (University of Tübingen) reported on a project about data compression and volumetric rendering of giga-voxel data sets (slides (en)) to drive a large-scale video cluster. Johannes Hoppe and Johannes Hofmeister (both University of Applied Sciences at Heidelberg) demoed their clustered neural network for pattern recognition in image and video data, written in .NET (no slides).

After the lunch break at the student cafeteria, the next session was titled HPC Applications. Karsten Reineck and Horst Schwichtenberg (both Fraunhofer SCAI) compared the performance of different ISV-Codes on Windows and Linux and, well, I got the impression that some ISVs still have quite a way to go (slides (de)). Peter Kirsch and Markus Kirsch (both ICT AG) compared the performance of Fluent for Windows-HPC on Myrinet versus Gb Ethernet and instructed how to setup this application for a cluster (slides (de)). Sorin Serban (Visual Numerics) demoed the IMSL numeric library and explained how the library has been parallelized with OpenMP and what performance improvements the user can expect from different parts of the library (slides (de)).

The last session was named HPC Perspectives. Mario Deilmann (Intel) gave a talk that was split into two parts (slides (en + de)): The first was on the features and capabilities of Intel Parallel Studio and how it integrates in the Windows-HPC development story as an extension to Visual Studio; the second was on the Ct research project, a language-in-the-C++-language for throughput computing that was just announced to become available at Intel’s IDF. The closing talk was given by Torsten Langner (Microsoft), who introduced Microsoft’s offerings for Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) in the HPC world. With a very interesting example from the financial business, he explained what a WCF broker node is doing and what class of applications is expected to make use of this technology (slides (en)).